Macclesfield Town Council - A Brief History Of Mayoralty

A brief history of Mayoralty

Helping to bring a great sense of occasion and help to raise the profile of local organisations.

Published on: Thursday May 4, 2017

The word ‘Mayor’ comes from the old French ‘maire’, meaning head of a city or town government and originally derives from the Latin word ‘magnus’, meaning great.

The Office of Mayor was brought to this country by the Normans, having existed on the continent at least since the fifth century. The first English Mayor was the Mayor of London appointed in 1189 by Richard I.  The first ‘Mayor Town’ was Thetford which established its Mayoralty in 1199. This was followed by Winchester, Wallingford, Gloucester and Exeter. In the thirteenth century a number of Boroughs were granted Royal Charters that granted them the same privilege.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the Mayor (always male in those days) was the ‘first citizen’ of the town, and was also ‘custodian of the peace’ and presided over civil and criminal courts. (The separation of the role of Mayor and magistrate began in 1949.) By Tudor times the power and importance of the Mayor had increased and by the seventeenth century he had become all powerful.

In the nineteenth century, the Mayor had three main roles; a constitutional monarch for the city, a speaker for the Council and a kind of Prime Minister (a role we would not recognise today).

By 1974 it was compulsory for Mayors to be selected from Members of the Council. The Mayor leads the Council and has the following statutory functions:

  • To Chair Full Council Meetings,
  • To have the casting vote in the event of a tie at Council meetings,
  • To ensure, with the Clerk, that the Council makes sound legal decisions,
  • To ensure that Council meeting agendas are followed correctly.

The Mayor is still granted the position of first citizen of Macclesfield and takes precedence over all other dignitaries in the town except for Her Majesty the Queen, members of the Royal family and the Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire.

Today, the Mayor’s role is largely ceremonial. Their presence can bring a great sense of occasion and help to raise the profile of local organisations.

Macclesfield’s first documented Mayor was Thomas de Astbury in 1330. All of Macclesfield’s Mayors are listed in the Roll of Honour, found in the Town Hall.